The Truth of the Monster

Monster

I thought I had found the man, third time’s the charm right?

You looked at me with something in your eyes – something other than lust.

Wanting something more than domination, manipulation, and control.

But you ripped me apart, leaving a bloody mess.

 

I became yours for the taking – I felt dirty.

You never asked for consent and you didn’t stop when I said no.

Only physical force saved me – my physical force.

Once again I was violated by a man who wanted to be a pastor.

 

I blamed myself for every girl after me – every one who you hurt next.

But I wouldn’t let the monster of what you did escape from my lips.

I wouldn’t let the bile rise up – I swallowed it down.

I prayed that the others are fine and that no more will be hurt.

 

I justified what you did to me and to them.

Over and over I justified the things you did.

But then some days my head is clear from your grasp.

And I know – I know that what you did can’t be justified.

 

So one day my mind was crystal clear.

And I made my choice in that clarity.

Phone calls were made and cars were borrowed.

A long night in the police station after hours.

 

So I told – I opened my mouth and the monster came out.

The dark mess came out slowly, then all at once, like bile I couldn’t keep down.

I told the police but I didn’t want charges.

I wanted a record for those after me, for those who might come.

 

But then I went back and I told home – our home – yours and mine.

Because even there I needed there to be a something for those to come after me.

I knew there were some to come – I was the frontrunner.

I was the trailblazer for those hurt by you.

 

I told and the monster came out in our home.

Bile rising up – tears pouring out.

I spoke those words you begged me not to.

The truth burned out – I don’t know if even I could have stopped them.

 

In the end even you – even you admitted it.

No punishments happened to you, not a single one.

And I was the one who received the backlash.

Maybe that was the truth of the monster.

Bethany

Agape: The Story of My First Tattoo

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Today I got my very first tattoo. For those who don’t know, this is not “Jesus fish, upside-down Jesus fish, Jesus fish, pi, and n.” It’s the word agape in original Greek. 
I’ve been thinking about getting this tattoo for awhile – I mean honestly it’s been a couple years. The beginnings of the idea started around when I was 13 – 14. The full idea didn’t really come to me until maybe I was like 16. Until point I was still back-and-forth about exactly what I wanted but I kind of knew that I at least wanted some form of love at the top.

Then at 16 I picked that I wanted the word agape which is the Greek word for love. Agape has two main interpretations that I learned: unconditional, charitable love; and God’s love for us. 1 Corinthians 13 coincides with agape and they are constantly referenced together – in addition this is my favorite chapter of the bible. To me I find this to be part of a description of agape. It also had a lot of meaning to me. 

The original reason for wanting a form of love on my arm was because I needed a reminder to myself. From a very young age I struggled with self-harm. I wanted a subtle reminder that I am better. I also wanted a reminder that above all else God loves me, even if all else in this world fails, thus, agape; God’s unconditional love. Even now, even picturing that tattoo there has helped me not relapse into self-harm. 

Now, it’s that and a reminder of 1 Corinthians 13 I’m very attached to for a couple different reasons. First of all, I’ve always just loved the way that it flows – but that’s not why I wanted it tattooed on me. I want a reminder that I deserve better. I want a reminder to be better. Love is what should drive me, my love for God and my love for my fellow people. 

From my very first boyfriend to my most recent one, I’ve experienced abuse and sexual assault. This is a reminder that how they treated me was not love. The emotional abuse and manipulation that occurred was not love. Trying to convince me to commit suicide isn’t love. Convincing me I was ugly and they were the only ones who would love me… Isn’t love. Being angry at everything I did. Being controlling. Hurting me as a way of gaining control….Whether it was words or physical… That was not love. Calling me lucky that they loved me… Is not love. Love is patient, and it is kind. It does not put down others. It does not look for self-gain. It’s not envy. It’s not about anger. There’s no record of past wrongs to hold over anyone’s head. It protects. It conquers. It does not fail. (4-8) I need to be looking for this. For God’s love to shine through another. That I am better than manipulative people. I need to remember what love is and not get caught up in fake manipulative things. 

It’s a reminder that this is what God’s love for me is. Even if all else fails, this is what God feels towards me. Others will not be perfect. I will not be perfect. But God is. This is a reminder to follow him, to trust him, to love him, and to live my life for the one who loves such an imperfect me. 

But this is also a reminder for me on my actions and feelings towards others – not just how I am loved and should be treated. I also need to remember to treat people right. I need to remember to treat people right. I slip into anger way too much. Sometimes I can be manipulative. Sometimes I hold past wrongs over people’s heads. So I need to be better and I want to be driven by love, not anything else. 

This whole idea had already solidified in my mind by the time I went to work at Pioneer Camp at which I started working with adults with disabilities. Here, they are called agape campers and I realized I have a huge passion for this. They changed my life and it felt like God was just saying, hey stupid, yeah, agape was the right choice for a tattoo. Little by little things have just popped up that have made me certain I wanted this. 

Every once in awhile there’s something new that ties in with this tattoo. 

Bethany

So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate…

I’m pro-life. 

Or, put another way, I believe the sacred personhood of an individual begins before birth and continues throughout life, and I believe that sacred personhood is worth protecting, whether it’s tucked inside a womb, waiting on death row, fleeing Syria in search of a home, or playing beneath the shadow of an American drone.

I’ve also voted for both pro-life and pro-choice candidates for political office, including Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008, and George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000.

So I speak as someone who has struggled with, and in some cases regretted, her decisions at the ballot box, and who recognizes no single political party boasts a consistent pro-life ethic, just as no single political party embodies the teachings of Jesus or the values of his Kingdom. (If you think this is the first year your vote fails to reflect Christian principles, I’ve got some bad news.) I speak too as someone acutely aware of the inconsistencies and uncertainties in my own pro-life convictions, which continue to be challenged and changed in the midst of lived experience.

While I’ve written in the past about feeling caught between the pro-life and pro-choice camps, I’ve never used my platform to endorse a presidential candidate. But as so many others have said, this year is different.Knowing many of my pro-life friends feel torn between voting for an unpopular but highly qualified pro-choice candidate in Hillary Clinton and an incompetent narcissist who poses a unique threat to our American democracy in Donald Trump, I’d like to make a proposal:

You should vote for Hillary Clinton. 

And I’d like to suggest that voting for a pro-choice candidate in this election, or any election, need not overburden your conscience.

Here’s why:

In the eight years since we’ve had a pro-choice president, the abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest since 1973. I believe the best way to keep this trend going is not to simply make it harder for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies but to create a culture with fewer unwanted pregnancies to begin with.  Data suggests progressive social policies that make healthcare and childcare more affordable, make contraception more accessible, alleviate poverty, and support a living wage do the most to create such a culture, while countries where abortion is simply illegal see no change in the abortion rate.

By focusing exclusively on the legal components of abortion while simultaneously opposing these family-friendly social policies, the Republican Party has managed to hold pro-life voters hostage with the promise of outlawing abortion, (which has yet to happen under any Republican administrations since Roe v. Wade), while actively working against the very policies that would lead to a significant reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

So even though I think abortion is morally wrong in most cases, and support more legal restrictions around it, I often vote for pro-choice candidates when I think their policies will do the most to address the health and economic concerns that drive women to get abortions in the first place. For me, it’s not just about being pro-birth; it’s about being pro-life. Every child deserves to live in a home and in a culture that welcomes them and can meet their basic needs. Every mother deserves the chance to thrive. Forcing millions of women to have children they can’t support, or driving them to Gosnell-style black market clinics, will not do. We have to work together—pro-life and pro-choice, Democrat and Republican, conservative Christian and progressive Christian—to create a culture of life that celebrates families and makes it easier to have and raise kids. This is the only way to make our efforts at rarifying abortion truly sustainable.

This year, Hillary Clinton has better policy proposals to help improve the lives of women, children, and families than Donald Trump, whose pro-life convictions are lukewarm at best, and whose mass deportation plan would rip hundreds of thousands of families apart, whose contempt for Latinos, Muslims, refugees and people with disabilities would further marginalized the “least of these” among us, and whose support for torture and targeting civilians in war call into question whether Christians who support him are truly pro-life or simply anti-abortion.

Source: So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate…

Bethany

*Please note, this is not my article, nor do I consider myself pro-life. However I do think it’s an interesting take and something valuable.

I’m pro-life. And I’m voting for Hillary. Here’s why. — Shannon Dingle

Why not Trump/Pence? Donald doesn’t have a pro-life track record, even a little bit. On Meet the Press in 1999, Trump said, “Well, I’m very pro-choice” in response to a question about partial birth abortion. Later that year, he stated, “I believe it is a personal decision that should be left to the women and their doctors,” to the Associated Press. “I support a woman’s right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures,” he wrote in his book The America We Deserve in 2000. Even more concerning, a few years later during an interview with shockjock Howard Stern, Trump talked about how his first response to Marla Maples’ surprise pregnancy with one of his children was “what are we going to do about this?” In other words, he felt like he should have the right to consider abortion, so why believe now that he thinks other Americans shouldn’t?

Yes, he chose Pence, which to some demonstrates that he’d choose pro-life judges too. But I think all it means is that he’ll pick someone who will help him win pro-life votes. I believe both candidates are opportunistic (who in politics isn’t?) but, in Donald’s case, I’m convinced this shows up in his newly minted pro-life stance. He knows it’s what’s necessary to win conservative votes. Because he has no political track record, we can only go by his words, which are inconsistent, unreliable, and highly subject to change based on what’s politically convenient for him.

Less than a year ago, in a remark that defies his supposed pro-life stances and also smacks of nepotism, he said he thought his sister would make a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice. Nevermind that she, Maryanne Trump Barry, declared partial-birth abortion to be a constitutionally protected right in a decision she authored as an appellate court judge. Even more recently, this past April, on Face the Nation, he said the laws on abortion are set and should stay as they are. Does this sound like a pro-life candidate, even on the topic of abortion?

(Lest I sound as if I’m ignoring Hillary’s pro-choice record, I assure you I am not. I expect that anyone reading this is well-versed in her public statements over the years. I’m just pointing out, like this article does, that if you’re looking for a genuinely anti-abortion candidate, then Trump isn’t your guy any more than Hillary is your girl.)

But it’s on the other pro-life issues that I find Trump the most lacking and Hillary the far superior candidate. In other words, my stance isn’t a choice between the lesser of two evils. I’m not simply voting against Trump. If so, I’d be abstaining on principle (which is a valid choice, no matter what some may argue) or considering a third party candidate. I don’t consider it morally appropriate to vote against someone; in my personal convinctions, I must be able to vote for the person I choose on the ballot. So if I were a NeverTrumper and a NeverHillary, then I’d choose someone else or abstain. Those are viable options, even if someone tries to bully you into believing they aren’t. But I find enough I can affirm and identify with in the positions and record of Hillary Clinton, so my stance to be with her isn’t based in an opposition to Trump. Aside for abortion – which I do care about deeply – I see the Democrats as the party that champions other pro-life issues more effectively and consistently. This is why I changed my registration to unaffiliate with any party several years ago, after having been a Republican for years, based largely on my abortion stance.

What other pro-life issues? you ask. Well, if we call ourselves the pro-life movement, then we’re not just anti-abortion, right? I spoke at the Evangelicals for Life conference in DC back in January, and plenty of the speakers addressed issues beyond abortion. I was one of them, talking about the lives of people with disabilities. Starting with that group, here are 10 ways in which I find the Democratic nominee more pro-life than the Republicans…

Source: I’m pro-life. And I’m voting for Hillary. Here’s why. — Shannon Dingle

Bethany